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Spring break and coronavirus: What students need to know

March 10, 2020 at 6:25 pm

As spring break approaches during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, the Student Health Center urges you to carefully monitor the situation at your travel destination and be prepared for the possibility that you may not be able to come back to campus as planned.

Your travel or health situation could mean you need to stay home. We will let you know immediately if UT suspends in-person classes, but it is important before you leave to be prepared.

  • Bring any books or items with you that you might need to complete your coursework remotely. Take these items with you when you leave this week.
  • Familiarize yourself with Canvas, Zoom, and other distance learning technology. A good starting place is the Office of Information Technology website, which includes a page listing Canvas resources for students and one on getting started with Zoom.

We highly discourage personal international travel during spring break, especially to areas defined by the CDC as at-risk for COVID-19 community transmission. The health situation in other countries can change quickly. You also could face unexpected travel restrictions that affect your return to the US.

We advise all students to research their travel destinations and check their status frequently for updates:

Cruise ship travel

The CDC recommends that travelers, particularly those with underlying health issues, defer all cruise ship travel worldwide. Cruise ship passengers are at increased risk of person-to-person spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

When You Return

Upon returning from spring break, monitor your health, watch for any signs of illness, and see a health care provider if signs or symptoms develop. If you traveled somewhere there is an outbreak of COVID-19, closely follow local health guidelines as well as CDC guidelines upon return.

People in these categories currently require self-isolation and should not return to campus, typically for 14 days:

  • All persons, including health care workers, who have had close contact with a laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 patient within 14 days of symptom onset
  • All travelers who have returned from a CDC Level 3 country within the past 14 days, with or without symptoms
  • All travelers who have returned from a CDC Level 2 country within the past 14 days, with or without symptoms.

Communicate with your professors if your situation may prevent you from returning to campus. If needed, complete the student absence notification form with the Office of the Dean of Students.

If you develop a fever, cough, or shortness of breath after you return, contact your health care provider immediately for instructions. Remember to first call ahead and indicate that you have traveled to an area with an outbreak of COVID-19.

Prevention

Wherever you are, the best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to infectious agents. The CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to help you stay protected:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a face mask. CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Facemasks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or if your hands are visibly dirty.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  • Do not share drinks, food, or eating utensils with others.

Please stay safe.

Spencer D. Gregg, MD

Director, Student Health Center

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